Tidbits of Shelby County History
Ripples of Muddy Water

This week’s Tidbits is taken from Mrs. Tennie Warr “Ripples of Muddy Water”. It is a collection of articles written by Mrs. Ware about her early life growing up in the country.

It really makes one’s heart sad to realize how many young people of today do not know of the really wonderful things that we knew about when growing up in the country. For instance, in a short time there will be Chinquapins ready to play “hully gull” at school or at home. They may be already “ripe” but seems like most of the time it would be about September.

Then, there is the word “tow-sack” that we do not hear any more as we once did. Although, they do not make them as they did in our time, I guess. But how many times can you recall of late years that some of the men would come home for the saw and utensils to get the honey from a “honey tree”? In sawing wood sometimes, they would discover one and cut it down but very often just with a walk in the woods or repairing a fence someone could discover a wild honey tree. The bees would find a hollow tree and use it for a beehive and there would be oodles of juicy honey and sweet comb therein. Usually, one could smell the honey before they found the tree that was occupied. It may be that since the corn patch and orchards for much of their material to make honey; and we do not grow that too much in abundance anymore. Although many people do have clover growing as a pasture now and that, I’m told, is one source of bee’s honey.

What about the “Chimney Sweep” birds we use to know that would come into the chimney and dust the soot down the sides of the chimney and into the fireplace, sometimes making a real job for someone to clean up but they would get the chimneys clean for wintertime. We do not have as many chimneys as in the old times but more and more they are becoming popular again, but most children now do not know about them as we did as youngsters.

Well, as many of you readers know that the quilts did get worn around the edges and holes kicked into them from rough and rowdy use such as pallet making, fishing trips or maybe throwing them in the bed of a wagon to ride on when going to town, etc., or…. Sometimes they were carried to church and used to put on the floor for the little ones to nap on during a long preaching service.

During “Brush Arbor Days” every mother with small children carried quilts along and spread them down for the little ones to keep them quiet. That also gave a mother a free hand so that if she wanted to “Shout” during service, she did not have the baby in her arms.

We never know of garage sales nor anything such as “Flea markets”. We could not afford to sell or waste anything when we were growing up and even after I married. We took the worn quilts and sewed material together, perhaps feed sacks or some such material and make a top and bottom for the quilt. We’d either put them in the quilting fames or upon the bed and put the quilt between the two; then with heavy twine or maybe some colorful thread such as crocket thread we did what was called “tacking them in”. You did this by just sewing a stitch through the thickness of all the material, quilt and top with lining and bring to the top and tie a double knot in the thread. At this point you cut the thread by leaving an inch at least of the thread to make a pretty design when you got through with it. The tacking would be close together so it would not knot up when washed in the old iron washpot. They were heavy to wash and took a long time to dry after they were tacked but made good warm over, and heavy. (Note: early versions of what is known now as weighed blankets.)

You know many times our mothers had to use different ways of dying the linings of their quilts if they wanted the sack linings to be colorful. Many used tree barks and others used red clay to boil in water and then boil the lining in the water and this would leave it colored. Seems they felt like if there was color to the lining they would not get as dirty or perhaps not show dirt as quickly if they were left white. Dye was too expensive, and it could not always be obtained in small towns such as the ones where we lived. The inner bark was used to make color. Oak trees were often the source of colors such as the red oak bark made a reddish color and one, I’m not sure but think the white oak made a yellowish color. Poke berries made a purple or dark red according to how many berries used.

Note: Please be sure to come by the museum Monday – Friday from 1-4pm to visit the newest exhibit. It is an early history of Shelby County and our 1885 Courthouse.  Hope to see you soon.